Damian Hinds has said he wants to continue as education secretary under a new prime minister to finish the job of reducing teachers' workload and improving recruitment and retention in the profession
The education secretary told Tes the government also needed to do more to close the attainment gap and to prepare pupils for post-Brexit Britain.
With the Conservative Party set to choose a new prime minister, there has been speculation about who will be in charge at Sanctuary Buildings and what will happen to education policy as the new Cabinet attempts to deliver Brexit.
Mr Hinds told Tes he was keen to stay in the job, which he described as being “the best in government.”
Background: Year long battle to reduce teachers' workload
He said: “Of course I would want to stay. I’d love to. I love my job. It is an immense privilege…I get to work with teachers and school leaders in helping to shape, educate and power the next generation. It is an amazing job to be able to do.”
A Department for Education snapshot survey published this week found that 94 per cent of school leaders said they had taken steps to reduce marking this year.
However the same poll showed only 48 per cent of teachers and school leaders polled believed their workload had become more manageable this year as a result of actions taken by their school.
And the Teaching and Learning International survey (Talis) published last month found that teachers in England work more hours than anywhere else in Europe.
'More to do on workload'
Mr Hinds said: “I am acutely conscious that workload is top of the list of the things we need to tackle and that was confirmed with the Talis survey, the international survey done by the OECD.
“It shows our teachers are working longer hours than most other countries but its not because they are spending more time in the classroom teaching its because of everything else.
"That is what we need to bear down on. The results of the snapshot survey are encouraging but we have still got a long way to go.”
Mr Hinds said he was focused on reducing three areas of teachers’ work outside of teaching in the classroom: planning, marking and data collection.
This week he has written to council and multi-academy trusts urging them to help reduce the burden of data collection on school staff.
Since being appointed as education secretary 18 months ago, two issues have dominated the education agenda during Mr Hinds's tenure: school funding and the recruitment and retention crisis.
Mr Hinds introduced a recruitment and retention strategy earlier this year with an Early Career Framework aimed at supporting teachers in their first years in the profession.
He told Tes that the DfE was now working to improve the flexibility of teaching and make it more accessible.
“We need to recruit more teachers. It is all about that person in the front of the room. We need to work more on retention, on making sure that flexible working options are available to them when the stage of their life, or family means that is the right thing for them .
“I want to make it easier to return to the profession. Make sure we stay in touch with people when they are out of it and to make it as easy as possible for people to come back.”
Tight lipped on school funding
However Mr Hinds had less to say on the question of school funding.
There has been suggestions that the uncertainty over the country’s political future could delay the spending review – and therefore any uplift in education funding by a year.
Mr Hinds told Tes he had no reason to think the comprehensive spending review wouldn’t take place this year and that he had made a strong case for education funding.
He added: “I am arguing and have been for some time that we get the level of resource in the school system that is needed to maximise the potential of every child and every young person. We have rightly higher ambitions than we did the previous year.
“We also have some specific cost pressures in the system. Local authority high needs budgets and special educational needs budgets is part of that.”
However he would not be drawn on reports that the DfE is pushing to add extra cash for a teacher pay rise on to a £3 billion funding deal from the Treasury.
Closing the attainment gap
If Mr Hinds remains in post as education secretary he said he will also focus more on closing the attainment gap.
He added: “We have made particular progress on attainment and on narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their better off peers but a narrowing in the range of ten per cent still leaves a lot.
“It is still the case there aren’t even life chances depending on where you start out geographically. Depending on where you start out – children in the care system, children on the edge of care system, those known to social services still don’t get the kind of results we want them to be getting and frankly we need them to be getting in order for them to get a fair crack of the whip later in life.”
At a time when the country faces major political uncertainty, Mr Hinds appears to be striving for continuity at the DfE – by remaining in place as the education secretary.